Rainforest Running Gear with Ryan Sandes
Ryan Sandes is one of the top adventure runners in South Africa. Winner of the Sahara Race in 2008, Gobi March in 2008, second in this year’s Racing the Planet Namibia and winner of the Jungle Marathon, a grueling 6-day race through Brazil’s rainforest. He not only won but took the course record for the fastest time since the race began (26 hours and 33 minutes). Let’s see how he geared up to face such an hostile environment for a running event:
TrailrunningSoul – High temperatures and extreme humidity. I guess running in the rainforest completely determines the gear you bring for such an occasion. What type of shirt and tights did you use?
Ryan Sandes – Yes as you want clothing that keeps you cool, dries quickly and gives you protection from the plants etc. I wore a Salomon technical t-shirt which dried quickly to avoid chaffing and I used the Salomon ¾ EXO tights to give my legs for extra protection.
Would you recommend wearing long sleeve and long tights to avoid scratches (and maybe infections) caused by the vegetation?
I would recommend wearing a short sleeve t-shirt as they are cooler than the long sleeve t-shirts and your arms do not need to be covered. But on your legs I would recommend wearing ¾ or full length tights for protection as you are constantly scratching and cutting your legs on vegetation etc.
The organization recommends wearing gloves and a hat mainly for protection. I saw a few pictures of runners wearing them. Did you? Anything special about them?
I did not see the point of wearing a hat as most of the race is run under the thick jungle canopy and you do not get much direct sun – therefore sunburn is not an issue. I did not use gloves but would recommend them as you are constantly grabbing onto tree’s etc during the race. Many plants have poisonous spikes on them as well as housing many spiders and scorpions.
I’ve read that wearing sunglasses to run in a course like the Jungle Marathon is not really a must. Is that true?
I would recommend a pair of clear lens sunglasses to protect your eyes from branches and vegetation. Some of the vegetation you run through is very dense!
There’s quite a few things participants must carry through the entire race so a backpack is not really optional but a must. I saw many racers with Raidlight stuff. What was your choice? Is it a camelback-type or does it come with water bottles?
I used a Salomon XA 25litre waterproof backpack with a 5litre custom front pack with bottles.
Talking about water, this is almost the only thing the organization provides during the race. How did you manage re-hydration and electrolytes? You have run desert races. Would you say you need to re-hydrate more often in the rainforest?
I drank more in the jungle as it was so humid. I use Perpetuem and Endurolytes by Hammer Nutrition to re – hydrate.
How is like feeding in this race? What type of food did you bring? Gels and bars? Freeze-dried?
I use Perpetuem and a few gels while racing and then freeze dried meals for dinner. I also eat biltong, smash, stock cubes as they are all high in calories. But I really miss proper food during a race!
Given that you have to cross neck-deep rivers, zip-lock bags -or the like- are a must right?
Yes, dry bags are a must as if your food gets wet then that is your race over. I used zip lock bags within a bigger dry bag. My Salomon backpack had a built in dry bag compartment.
Key to any race is footwear. I read you wore the new Salomon S-lab. How did they perform in such environment? Did other racers wear mountain running shoes?
They were awesome – I did not get one blister! They were light, dried quickly and gave me a lot of support in the varied terrain.
What about gaiters? Recommended for swamp areas?
No, as gaiters would just trap water in your shoes.
Did you bring any gadgets with you? If so, did they work in such a humid environment?
I did not bring any gadgets to the Jungle Race as I try and go into the race a light as possible. Ipods are quite a popular gadget with competitors.
Any other piece of gear you did use on the race you’d like to point out?
I did not use some of my mandatory kit such as my space blanket, flashing light, whistle etc. I try and pack as little as possible so all my gear gets used – it would be a crime to take something and not use it!
And finally, anything you would have brought that you didn’t? Anything you wouldn’t bring again?
More food – I ate a lot more than expected in the humid conditions.
Thank you Ryan for the insight on such an extreme race!